There are many companies who successfully manage their telemarketing campaigns in-house and, on the surface, this might appear a very cost effective option that uses spare capacity. You could be forgiven for thinking that anyone who can communicate over the phone is capable of being a telemarketer. And surely, someone from within your organisation should be better able to represent you than someone from an outside organisation ……right? As with most things, it isn’t quite that simple…
1. Specialist Skills
The ability to hold a conversation on the phone does not make for a qualified, competent telemarketer or telesales professional. It takes a particular set of skills and natural aptitude to sustain high volume calling at the standard required to produce good quality outcomes, particularly in the B2B lead generation environment. An agency will take great pains to recruit the right individuals, putting a pool of callers at the disposal of the client, to be assigned according to the needs of each campaign – including multilingual agents for overseas campaigns.
Some skills can be taught but others are inherent to an individual’s personality, including self-confidence and the tenacity to stay focused and maintain performance, despite repeated rejection. There is nothing easy or attractive about cold calling and even hardened salespeople shy away from it, especially those accustomed to warm, sales qualified leads. The strong persuasive skills required for demand generation, are very different attributes to those needed for a research task or survey, and agencies recruit and match skills accordingly.
Here at The Telemarketing Company, our agents undergo industry standard training – Institute of Sales Management for our persuasive team and Market Research Society/Interviewer Quality Control Scheme for our CATI market researchers) – to equip them with baseline skills – solution selling, rapport building, listening skills – in line with their specialism’s. This is then supplemented by campaign specific training on the client’s brand and proposition, the competitive landscape, product benefits, and customer pain points.
This level of training puts tools at the disposal of agency staff that are not available to the average individual in a typical office environment.
2. Proactive Account Management
Whilst telemarketing can be a catch all phrase, it encompasses many different activity types including lead generation, appointment setting, transactional telesales, inbound call handling and, in some cases, pre and post sales telephone research. An experienced account manager with broad and deep knowledge of these areas will apply best practice from previous campaigns, whilst working to understand what needs to be done differently, as no two campaigns are the same.
Assign agents with the right skills and experience for your campaign profile.
Work on a detailed brief capturing your proposition, USPs, key messages and desired outcomes using a framework such as BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timing) to understand the key criteria that define value for you.
Implement an early stage campaign review capturing client and agent feedback so that barriers and pain points not covered by the brief are addressed from the start.
Listen to call recordings to understand which agents and approaches are most effective so that best practice is shared across the team.
Identify pockets of data and sectors that are getting more traction than others, so that resource can be targeted where it brings most return.
Establish an ongoing feedback loop using reporting tools, regular reviews and regular communication with agents and client to optimise campaign performance.
The level of expert account management ensures that each campaign has the best chance of delivering strong ROI.
3. Structured, Systematic Approach
An account manager within an agency also has the benefit of detailed insight into campaign performance provided by a bespoke calling platform:
The calling platform increases the fluidity of the calls and allows agents to track pipeline, capture notes and feedback. Productivity levels in this environment are naturally higher (15-20 calls out per hour) than in-house where the individual may be grappling with a standard CRM, or potentially calling from and manually updating a list in excel.
Reporting and Metrics
This type of platform also provides a wealth of reporting and metrics giving the account manager increased visibility, enabling them to optimise campaign performance at both the agent and campaign level.
The platform, and the reporting it supports, facilitates data management –a natural cornerstone of any successful calling campaign. It will highlight where data quality is poor and which pots of data are feeding the pipeline and results. Rather than burning through data for quick wins, agents can nurture the pipeline, schedule call backs, send literature to follow up and develop opportunities for both the short and long term.
Call recordings add a further layer of visibility and transparency, providing the perfect tool to monitor ongoing performance, giving clients clear insight into how their proposition is presented and received, enabling them to provide feedback to optimise results.
These increased layers of visibility and the consistent, structured approach coupled with bespoke platforms and systems provide a much better foundation for success than a typical office infrastructure.
4. Resource Management
Agency callers are in a results-driven, competitive setting, where everyone is 100% focused on the same, or similar tasks. It is harder to focus when juggling a mix of reactive and proactive tasks, and easier to be distracted in a less controlled environment. Individuals making calls in an office environment where no one else is calling, may also feel self-conscious, especially if they lack training.
Finances permitting, it is possible to recreate a call centre environment in-house, taking the same approach in terms of staff recruitment, training and ongoing coaching, as well as IT infrastructure. Yet, even with the required investment, it may still be difficult to match the capability and flexibility of an outsourced resource.
A larger pool of agents shared across multiple campaigns allows the agency to move callers around to ramp a campaign up or down as required to maintain a consistent flow of leads, or respond to peaks and troughs when managing inbound leads.
If you are looking to expand overseas, an agency can not only provide multilingual agents but can support out of hours calling, which is part and parcel of the environment but may be less acceptable in a normal office set up.
Agency resource can also be applied at very specific times of day according to the target sector profile. Calling into schools, for example, is often more successful later in the afternoon, as you have a better chance of reaching decision makers. An in-house team may not be as flexible with their time or their ability to target calls.
A large team of trained, seasoned callers provides a broader skill set and broader spread of experience to deal with different levels of decision maker, different functions, sectors and outcome types, as well as market stage. If traction is gained in a particular segment, agency resource can be shifted easily to where it will bring the best return, without a significant training overhead.
Aside from the flexibility of resource, an in-house team requires significant management time, not just to ensure campaigns run effectively but also to deal with personnel issues – holiday, sickness, turnover, as well as training and development. With an outsourced solution, the agency will manage all these aspects, without any impact on in-house management time and resource.
5. Brand Reputation
A structured framework, which supports a consistent approach, allows you to control how your brand is presented. A thorough brief, close supervision and ongoing monitoring through call recordings and detailed reports, ensures the message conveyed reflects your brand values and guarantees correct positioning of your propositions.
An in-house employee may already be familiar with your brand and could be perceived as being in a better position to answer technical or probing questions about products or services, but an agency with a strong brief can be very effective in presenting a client’s proposition. Agents are given very specific training on the propositions they present, with a clear process for escalating questions, or scheduling follow ups with sales or in-house teams where required. They typically follow a solution selling approach, asking open questions and capturing feedback and insight, but with a clear understanding of the extent of their remit.
A managed, measured approach based on a solid, thorough brief with a consistent message, continually monitored for quality and consistency will safeguard your brand reputation. A less structured and supervised environment and approach may be less effective.
6. Return on Investment
Whether handled in-house or through an agency, telemarketing can be one of the more expensive marketing channels. However, done well, it can produce a very strong ROI, particularly in the B2B sector where outcomes often have higher values.
In this respect, a controlled, measured approach is critical to secure the quality of output you need. Investing resource without a means to monitor the effort can be a false economy, producing an inconsistent flow of poor quality leads, which sap sales time and divert resource from real opportunities.
Once you have a sizeable team, ensuring they are fully utilised and minimising downtime is essential to ensure a return on that investment, but this can be a challenge as requirements fluctuate. An agency with a large pool of callers, managing multiple clients, can move resource around and re-deploy callers should requirements fluctuate at short notice.
Many businesses have, over time, built very successful in-house telemarketing teams producing a steady flow of high quality opportunities for their sales team, but this will have inevitably brought with it challenges and low points. What’s more, it is rarely the easiest or most cost effective option. Beyond the obvious financial investment, there are many important considerations including management overhead and time, hidden costs such as call charges, IT infrastructure, and of course higher personnel counts and costs.
Outsourcing may not make sense for every organisation but it certainly has advantages, high up on that list must be the productivity levels that can be achieved by dedicated agency teams, and tried and tested campaign management on purpose built technology platforms. And, if you are new to telemarketing or telesales – perhaps exploring a new approach or dealing with a short term requirement – an outsource option allows you to evaluate different models and approaches, in particular ‘build or buy’, to determine what’s right for you and your business.